What is Adventure tourism?
Adventure is a multifaceted and layered spectacle. Even as a concept, it remains inadequately defined although various disciplines have tried to come up with meanings. A definition that is formidable is the one that arises from the exploration of representations, people and places that define adventure as a practice, philosophy, experience and a commercial venture (Beard et al., 2012, p.5). Contributions drawn from psychologists, sociologists, geographers, and anthropologists are required to come up with a fuller definition (Varley, Taylor, & Johnson, 2013, p.13).
One of the few aspects that are constant in definitions of adventure is the theme of fluidity which is brought forth by analysis of the history of adventure. Since early European exploration and colonization, Western comprehension of adventure has been evolving and shifting (Beard et al., 2012, p.7). It is now determined by the commodification of factors such as the urge to participate in dangerous sports and nature among other factors. Largely, Western discourses such as British mountaineering have dominated the understanding of adventure (Kane & Tucker, 2004, p. 242).
Boundaries that are considered when determining how to go about classifying adventure have been changing with time (Beard et al., 2012, p.9). Similarly, demographics of consumers of adventure have been changing rampantly. Thus, it is logical to theorize adventure tourism from a mobility paradigm (Giddy, & Webb, 2016, p.3). On the other hand, psychologists have argued that establishing the main characteristics of happiness can significantly help in the understanding of adventure. Vanuatu, a country that has developed the adventure tourism product relatively well, has been twice rated as the world's happiest country in the world by Lonely Planet (Varley, Taylor, & Johnson, 2013, p.17).
Therefore, adventure tourism definition is a form of tourism that entails travel and exploration of exotic, remote and sometimes hostile areas with the aim of gaining happiness. It involves exchanging cultural practices, engaging nature, physical activity or even a combination of any of these (Beard et al., 2012, p.12). Adventure tourism expects participants to move out of their comfort zone and indulge in riskier, demanding or entirely new activities for excitement (Kane & Tucker, 2004, p. 238). Some of the activities considered adventure tourism include trekking, mountain biking, jumping, rafting, zip-lining, paragliding and mountaineering among others (Beard et al., 2012, p.15)s. Usually, activities are linked to places. For example, Himalaya is associated with trekking while Milford Track is known for walking as a form of adventure tourism (Giddy, & Webb, 2016, p.6).
There are various types of adventure tourism. Broadly, they can be classified into soft and hard adventure tourism (Beard et al., 2012, p.56). Soft Adventure is a travel experience that rewards both the mind and the spirit by going beyond the typical itinerary of the tourist in a manner that is safe and with low physical stresses. Examples of types within this category include ecotourism and ethno-tourism (Giddy, & Webb, 2016, p.8). On the other hand, hard adventure tourism is a travel experience that is more physical with higher risks compelling people to the extraordinary for a healthier spirit (Beard et al., 2012, p.65). Hard adventure is more expensive, and it requires the use of technical equipment compared to soft adventure. It entails activities such as mountain biking, kayaking, and mountaineering (Kane & Tucker, 2004, p. 231). Thrill tourism is a typical hard travel adventure. Accessible tourism is one of the types of experiences that lies between hard and soft adventure travel (Varley, Taylor, & Johnson, 2013, p.28).
Each of the various characteristics of adventure tourism in each category is unique in a way. In ecotourism, the traveler ventures to the undeveloped and sensitive natural and cultural areas without tampering with them. Conventional hoteling and forms of transport are forgone for local and sourced options (Beard et al., 2012, p.67). Ethno-tourism involves interaction with people of different cultures around the world through activities such as trekking (Giddy, & Webb, 2016, p.11). On the other extreme, thrill tourism is all about events that lead to a surge in adrenaline levels usually as a result of a sense of danger. Consequently, training and appropriate safety considerations are paramount (Beard et al., 2012, p.84). Accessible tourism combines hard and soft aspects to provide excursions to people with challenges in mobility. It combines exploration of cultures and extreme activities like water rafting.
For what reason do people go on adventure tourism holidays?
It is notable that the number of individuals seeking and getting involved in adventurous activities is increasing globally probably due to the democratization of travel. This is partly because travel and adventure are synonymous (Williams & Soutar, 2009, p.414). To illustrate the growth, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the largest organization for scuba diving, has issued an excess of 2 million certifications since the year 1967. Apart from the ease brought about by increased freedom of travel across borders, other factors make people choose to indulge in adventure tourism these days (Williams & Soutar, 2009, p.418).
Development of organizational structures in adventure tourism is one of the reasons why the number of people engaging in this leisure component has increased (Varley, Taylor, & Johnson, 2013, p.25). These structures promote and regulate adventure tourism to expose more people to it as well as give assurance and reliability to the tourists (Williams & Soutar, 2009, p.421). Thus, the organizations play a significant role in the understanding of the place and activities of adventure hence provide their customers with a glimpse of the real adventure in advertisements so that more people are attracted into getting involved (Kane & Tucker, 2004, p. 224). Examples of such organizations include Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA).
Social- Psychological factors are motivations driving people into adventure tourism. Most of these are referred to as push factors because they arise from the tourists themselves. Travelers with this form of motivation include people needing relaxation from work; people in with the aim of regressing to a former state for example after trauma; others seeking to enhance social interactions or improve kinship relationships (Kane & Tucker, 2004, p. 224). Adventure tourism is one of the escape routes from the loneliness that most people find themselves in a while in their routine deeds (Williams & Soutar, 2009, p.425). Mainly, tourists with this motive are in search of an experience that keeps them completely away from their normal environment that they perceive as mundane. Hence, they use the new world to evaluate and discover themselves through engaging in activities that are never in their routine (Giddy, & Webb, 2016, p.13).
On the contrary, pull factors are psychological needs aimed at enhancing the ego of the tourist. Therefore, promotional activities of the destinations and their activities primarily influence people who are driven by pull factors. Examples include tourists who indulge in diving so that they may get certifications to show that they are experts in that activity. The nature of man constitutes a need to be recognized, which is the underlying reason for pull factors in adventure tourism.
Other people are adventurous for education and novelty purposes. The need to satisfy the curiosity of seeing and experiencing new places and things motivates many people to travel to new places and try new things (Kane & Tucker, 2004, p. 218). For example, a European tourist may visit an African country such as Kenya to see a White Rhino that they have never seen in their life before (Williams & Soutar, 2009, p.431). Others may travel to a coastal beach in tropical countries to enjoy the sunny beaches that are not in their home or residential countries. Also, a researcher or an academic may travel to a new place or do a new thing to document its details (Williams & Soutar, 2009, p.434). They use the adventure to inform their thesis or books. In this case, destination attributes play the biggest role in determining the choice of the traveler (Varley, Taylor, & Johnson, 2013, p.13).
Consequently, these kinds of tourists are not much interested in the destination of the adventure itself but rather by its ability to serve as a medium through which their psycho-social needs can be satisfied.
What makes New Zealand an adventure tourism destination?
New Zealand is considered as the home of adventure tourism. This is because it possesses many pull factors which make it the destination of choice for tourists whose goal is the adventure (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2003, p.285). It is marketed internationally as a clean, green playground for adventure. Nature areas such as Abel Tasman National Park, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and Milford Sound are the ideal adventure tourism areas in New Zealand. This form of tourism is one of the major export commodities for New Zealand accounting for about 16 percent of its export earnings which translates to an injection of 24 billion New Zealand dollars every year (World Tourism Organization, 2014, p.6). Local tourists also make expenditures to a tune of 9.8 billion New Zealand Dollars every year on the adventure. New Zealand adventure tourism statistics shows that multitudes of both domestic and foreign tourists prefer New Zealand for adventure (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2003, p.287).
One of its principal pull factors is provision for skydiving which is done in various locations of adventure tourism in New zealand such as Queenstown, Lake Wanaka, Lake Taupo, Bay of Plenty and Auckland. People skydive in tandem or solo depending on their preference (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2003, p.285). Although some tourists are scared to the extent that they cannot try it another time, others come back for subsequent sessions. Skydiving is boosted by the fact that there are companies offering skydiving training to adventure tourists (World Tourism Organization, 2014, p.6).
Secondly, tourists are attracted to New Zealand by the bungee jumping activity found at various Bungy sites such as Kawarau and Nevis in Queensland. The top of Nevis is New Zealand's highest (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2003, p.286). For an entirely different experience of bungee jumping in New Zealand, tourists can go to Waikato River at the Taupo Bungy or Auckland Harbor Bridge, which are popular adventure tourism locations in New Zealand.
The other pull factor is jet boating. This is done at rivers that are close to Lake Taupo's thundering Huka Falls. Also, tourists are taken through negotiating 360 degree spins in rivers in Queenstown (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2003, p.286). Almost every river in New Zealand has a jet boat running on it. The Shotover Jet through the Shotover Canyon in Queenstown is one of the best rides preferred by tourists.
Also, New Zealand is acknowledged for rafting, which is among top activities of adventure tourism in New Zealand. It is known for being the home of the highest waterfall in the world amongst the commercially rafted ones at Rotorua, it is seven meters high, so growing demand for rafting in the adventure tourism sector in New Zealand is not a surprise. Other sites for rafting are in the range of grade one to five in various rivers of New Zealand. The most popular rafting sites include Lake Taupo (Tongariro River), Queenstown and the wild West Coast. Some tourists prefer the thrill experienced in rapids while others go for a treat at the center of pristine, sky-scraping valleys (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2003, p.286). Tourists are usually placed in groups of six for rafting which enables them to develop into cohesive teams that fulfill their social-psychological need to escape loneliness. There are also family crafts...
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